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Luke Donald to Captain Team Europe at Ryder Cup

One of the greatest short game players in the history of professional golf takes on a new role.

Luke Donald holds his golf club up after a large swing, he watches his golf ball fly.
Image: Northwestern University Athletics

Fall 2023

When he graduated from Northwestern with a degree in art, Luke Donald ’01 might have gone on to make his mark with a paintbrush.

And yet, there was his pitching wedge.

Now known as one of the greatest short game players in the history of professional golf, Donald first made a name for himself with an all-time great collegiate run: four-time All-American, three-time Big Ten Player of the Year, two-time Big Ten Champion and 1999 NCAA individual champion. (Donald was featured as one of the University’s all-time greatest student-athletes in Northwestern Magazine’s “Top Cats” feature.)

After graduating from Northwestern, Donald turned pro in 2001, but Pat Goss ’93, Northwestern’s director of golf and player development, continued to coach the Englishman. Donald established himself as a mainstay on both the European and PGA tours and building a career filled with uncommon achievements. Donald won more than a dozen tournaments, held the No. 1 spot on the Official World Golf Rankings for 56 weeks and, in 2011, became the first player ever to top the earnings lists on both tours in the same season.

Today, more than 20 years after turning pro, Donald is adding European Ryder Cup team captain to his resume, a testament to his standing in the sport and the respect he has earned from fellow golfers. Donald will lead the European side against the United States in Rome from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1. 

Northwestern Magazine asked Pat Goss, the coach who has worked with Donald since 1997, about the long arc of Donald’s career and what to expect from him as a Ryder Cup captain.

What makes Luke Donald such a great captain and leader?

“[Luke has always been most passionate about] team golf. That passion was part of his and our team’s success while he was at Northwestern. And of all the team golf Luke has played, there is nothing that means more to him than the Ryder Cup.

“For more than 10 years Luke talked openly with me about his desire to captain the European Ryder Cup team. He has a notebook that he started many years ago to keep all his thoughts on how he would captain a team. I’m glad to see him [have the opportunity] to put [those notes into action].”

What are Donald’s best skills — as a player or nonplayer — that suit him for this job?

“The first thing that will make Luke a strong captain is he has the players’ respect as [both] a competitor and a winning Ryder Cup player. He never played on a losing team — [his teams went 4-0] — and has one of the best all-time winning records for a European player (10-4-1). He has a steeliness to him and is a very calm and steadfast person, and that presence will mean a lot to the players.”

What kind of team will Europe be with Donald as captain? 

“It wasn’t unexpected, but I’ve been incredibly impressed to see how hard and diligently he’s worked to give his team the best opportunity for success. There is not a detail that hasn’t been considered. He’s worked at getting to know the players and being a visible captain who has a strong relationship with his team.  

“And Luke will have a strong team, particularly at the top with [Rory] McIlroy, [Jon] Rahm, [former Northwestern golfer Matt] Fitzpatrick and [Viktor] Hovland. However, his team will be the underdog, and that is a role [Luke] relishes and has succeeded in his whole career — including at Northwestern.”


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